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Philippines 28 May 2008

Radio broadcaster still in jail despite posting bail

Reporters Without Borders today deplored the continued detention of radio broadcaster Alex Adonis, of dxMF Bombo Radyo, despite his posting of bail after the Davao regional court said he could be freed on this condition. He was sentenced last year to four and a half years in prison for "slandering" a member of parliament.

"Adonis must be released because imprisonment for defamation is a violation of freedom of expression and an attempt to intimidate journalists,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said. “His continued detention after the court ruling is an insult to the rule of law in the Philippines. The Supreme Court must order his release and defamation must be decriminalised.”

Adonis’ colleagues, who helped him post bail, went to Davao prison on 26 May hours after Davao regional court Judge George Omelio had ordered him released on bail of 73 euros. But prison governor Benjo Tesoro told them he would not be freed until “higher correctional authorities” had been officially informed.

The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) called today on justice minister Raúl Gonzáles and national prisons chief Oscar Calderón (the “higher correctional authority” mentioned by Tesoro) to “rectify the error” that had “deprived Adonis of his constitutional rights.” The NUJP supported a request to the Supreme Court today by Adonis’ lawyer, Harry Roque, asking it to rule on the legality of the journalist’s continued imprisonment.

A complaint was filed jointly by Adonis, the NUJP and the Center for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR) at the end of last month to the UN High Commission on Human Rights condemning the “criminal” nature of the country’s defamation law.

Lawyer Roque also asked for Adonis’ trial to be reviewed by the Davao regional court in the light of a Supreme Court memorandum on 25 January this year recommending that judges fine rather than imprison people for defamation.

Adonis was sentenced in his absence on 31 January last year for "slandering" MP Prospero Nograles, the speaker of parliament and an ally of President Gloria Arroyo, by saying he had been seen fleeing naked from a Manila hotel after being caught by his reported paramour’s husband. He was due for release on bail on 11 December last year after serving the minimum part of his sentence but remained in prison because of a new complaint filed against him by the woman mentioned in his commentaries.

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